I love giving cookbooks as gifts. As someone with a documented obsession with cookbooks, this is a way to share my
addiction love of culinary tomes with others. Or, for the psychologists among you, this is a narcissistic imposition of an un-diagnosed hoarding disorder upon others. Either way, cookbooks make damn good holiday presents. Here, in no particular order, are four of my favorite new cookbooks of 2015. All would make great gifts, and in my expert opinion you should purchase in accordance with the “one for me, one for you” school of shopping.
Southern Soups & Stews, by Nancie McDermott
What can I say about Nancie that I haven’t already said elsewhere? Not only is she a mentor and a friend, but she is one of the best damn cookbook authors out there. Her books are chock full of her bright and bubbly personality, and each recipe is well-tested and accessible. Her latest book, Southern Soups & Stews, is no exception. The 75 recipes include such treasures as Nathalie Dupree’s Low Country Okra & Shrimp Gumbo and Collard Greens with Potlikker & Dumplings. As someone who has been on the receiving end of Nancie’s delicious soups (she once hand-delivered to me a batch of TRUE Brunswick Stew, squirrel included) this cookbook is at the top of my to-give list this year.
Making Dough, by Russell van Kraayenburg
I’ve been a fan of Russell’s blog Chasing Delicious for years, and his first cookbook, Haute Dogs, only solidified my admiration. I mean, a cookbook ALL about hot dogs? What’s not to love!? Well he’s back at it with his second book, Making Dough, which truth be told is exactly the sort of cookbook I’ve wanted to write for quite some time. Simply put, baking is about ratios, and once you have the ratios down the possibilities are endless. Russel gives a variety of base recipes for everything from biscuit dough to laminated dough, and from there shows you how to make a variety of tasty treats. We’re talking savory scones, filled danishes, brioche, pies, and more. Who wouldn’t want Apple Chipotle Hand Pies? This has been one of my favorite cookbooks of the year, and one that I plan to give to anyone who is just starting out on their baking journey.
A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to meet Ruth Reichl at a luncheon at Fearrington Village here in North Carolina. She was promoting her first novel, Delicious, and still smarting from the controversial shuttering of the magazine she had helmed for years, Gourmet. Fast-forward to 2015 and she is out with the first cookbook featuring her own recipes. My Kitchen Year is more than just recipes, it is a journey through therapeutic cooking, a window into her world immediately post-Gourmet when she retreated to her kitchen in an attempt to put the pieces of her life back together. As someone who has regularly turned to cooking in times of great need or distress, this is a cookbook that really speaks to me. This is a cookbook for anyone; for Reichl fans, for home cooks, and especially for that person in your life who has had a less-than-stellar year.
Lighten Up, Y’all, by Virginia Willis
Virginia Willis is hands-down one of my favorite cookbook writers and food folks. She is funny, engaging, and knows her stuff! Lighten Up, Y’all is a great example of her work – well-written, expertly tested recipes are peppered with Willis’s southern wit and charm. This is the perfect cookbook for those of us who LOVE southern cooking but could probably use a break from the butter now and then. The classics are all here – Buttermilk Pie, Chicken & Gravy, and Hoppin’ John, but with a distinctly lighter touch. It’s southern home cooking minus the guilt! Too often these days “heathy” and “light” recipes are gimmicky and, well, downright awful; in Lighten Up, Y’all Willis stays true to southern food without sacrificing taste or using funky “fake-outs”. Give this cookbook as a gift to the health-conscious friend who loves to eat well but is sick of quinoa and veggie burgers!